Were Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee paying U.S. journalists who wrote Russia-related stories before and after President Trump’s election?
Fusion GPS – the firm behind the Hillary Clinton- and Democratic National Committee-funded “Trump dossier” – paid at least three unidentified journalists who reported on Russia-related issues, according to newly filed documents to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Who were the journalists who received Fusion GPS cash between June 2016 and February 2017? And exactly why were they being paid?
It’s unclear, as that information is redacted or not revealed in court documents filed Tuesday, according to the Washington Examiner.
The paper said the discovery “could be a breakthrough for House Republicans, who are exploring whether Fusion GPS used the dossier, which was later criticized for having inaccurate information on Trump, to feed anti-Trump stories to the press during and after the presidential campaign.”
In a court filing, the House Intelligence Committee said the three journalists reported stories on “Russia issues relevant to [the committee’s] investigation.”
In an explosive report last month, the Washington Post revealed that former Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton and the DNC “helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about President Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin …”
The man at the center of the story is Marc Elias, a lawyer for the Hillary Clinton campaign and the party, who hired Fusion GPS “on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC” for the anti-Trump “research” in the dossier, which contains unsubstantiated and salacious claims about the president. The dossier, which contained allegations that the “Russian government collected compromising information about Trump and the Kremlin was engaged in an active effort to assist his campaign for president,” was reportedly provided to the FBI. In January 2017, only 10 days before Trump’s inauguration, the media began reporting the allegations in the dossier.
Elias runs the law firm Perkins Coie, and according to his bio, some of his clients have included the “DNC, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Democratic Governors Associations and U.S. senators, governors, representatives and their campaigns.” After the 2014 elections, Elias was also appointed by former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to the Victory Task Force, the bio explains, “to review key components of the role of the Democratic Party – and related organizations – in recent elections and identify places where the party can strengthen and improve operations in future elections.” Clinton reportedly hired Elias in January 2015.
Now Fusion GPS has urged the court to issue a restraining order against the House Intelligence Committee, which is seeking documents, such as bank records, from Fusion to explain why the firm was paying reporters before and after the election.
In an affidavit filed this week by Fusion GPS, co-founder Peter Fritsch appeared to claim the payments to journalists were unrelated to President Trump and Russia. The affidavit stated: “[The House Intelligence committee] has also demanded records related to transactions between Fusion GPS and certain journalists – i.e., Request Nos. 66, 68-69, 107-112. Those requested records involve transactions that are not pertinent to work related to Russia or Donald Trump.”
The numbers are from a list of Fusion GPS payments under committee scrutiny. The Examiner reported that the list is heavily redacted.
Fusion claims those payments went to journalists to help it conduct research.
“Fusion GPS is a research firm set up by former investigative journalists,” Fusion lawyer Josh Levy told the paper. “As such, it sometimes works with contractors that have specialized skills seeking public information. Contractors are not permitted to publish any articles based on that work, and Fusion GPS does not pay journalists to write stories.”
Levy also denied that the funds were used to pay journalists to generate anti-Trump stories in the media.
“This is simply another desperate attempt by the president’s political allies to discredit Fusion GPS’s work and divert attention from the question these committees are supposed to be investigating: the Trump campaign’s knowledge of Russian interference in the election,” Levy blasted.
The Examiner reported, “But House Republicans still have their doubts. One of the documents filed by lawyers for the House Intelligence Committee said each of the three reporters who received payments had written about the Russia probe, which could indicate that reporters were using Fusion GPS’s work to write their stories.”
The committee wants to see the transactions related to the three journalists, “each of whom have reported on and/or been quoted in articles regarding topics related to the Committee’s investigation, some of which were published as recently as October 2017,” the committee wrote.
House Intelligence Committee lawyers contend that Fusion GPS “brokered meetings for [Trump] dossier author Christopher Steele with at least five major media outlets in September 2016, including Yahoo news.”
One of Yahoo’s September 2016 news articles on the Trump-Russia allegations was headlined “U.S. intel officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin.” The article, written by chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff, focused on Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, accusing him of collusion with the Kremlin. Page has since filed a defamation lawsuit against Yahoo’s parent company. In September, the Daily Caller reported, “The core allegations in the article appear to have been provided to Isikoff by Christopher Steele, the former British spy who authored the now-infamous Trump dossier.”
After Page learned of the committee’s recent filings concerning Fusion GPS and its payments to journalists, he told the Examiner: “While many politicians and bureaucrats in the U.S. Congress remain distracted by irrelevant sideshows such as the minuscule amounts of money spent on Facebook ads that no one paid attention to last year or how various perverted members might have once amused themselves, the determined leaders and hard working staff with the House Intelligence Committee have once again remained on the tip of the spear as they drive toward essential answers regarding the real government interference in the 2016 election.”
According to a court filing, “Steele briefed a Mother Jones reporter in late October 2016, as well as met with multiple other news outlets at Fusion GPS’ behest …” BuzzFeed News published a version of the anti-Trump dossier on Jan. 10, 2017.
Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson admitted to House investigators Tuesday that he personally briefed reporters on alleged Trump collusion with Russia, Fox News reported. But Simpson also said he never checked out the sources behind the dossier, nor did he verify their claims. Simpson is the same Fusion GPS official who reportedly met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya before and after she attended a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at the Trump Tower in June 2016.
One of the earliest stories of alleged Trump-Russia ties was written in June 2016 by the Washington Post and headlined “Inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin.” This was apparently around the same time Fusion GPS began paying the unidentified journalists.
It was also in June that Russian hackers were accused of breaching the DNC computer network and obtaining research on Trump, according to CrowdStrike, the DNC’s security firm. The FBI wasn’t allowed to examine the DNC servers.